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In MusicBrainz terminology, a work is a distinct intellectual or artistic creation, which can be expressed in the form of one or more audio recordings. While a work in MusicBrainz is usually musical in nature, it is not necessarily so. For example, a work could be a novel, play, poem or essay, later recorded as an oratory or audiobook.


A work’s distinctiveness is based-on the artists who contributed to its final output, and whether a work is derived from another original work. Examples of works that are distinct:

  • a work that is written by an individual songwriter
  • a song that is the result of a collaboration between composer and lyricist
  • an instrumental work where an artist later adds lyrics
  • translation of an original work into a different language
  • a parody of an original work with differing lyrics
  • a medley of multiple original works
  • a remix of an original work
  • a mashup of multiple original works

Types of works

Works are represented predominantly at two levels:

Discrete works
An individual song, musical number or movement. This includes recitatives, arias, choruses, duos, trios, etc. In many cases, discrete works are a part of larger, aggregate works.

Aggregate works
An ordered sequence of one or more songs, numbers or movements, such as: symphony, opera, theatre work, concerto, and concept album (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list). A popular music album is not considered a distinct aggregate work unless it is evident that such an album was written with intent to have a specifically-ordered sequence of songs (a “concept album”).


A work has the following attributes:

The canonical title of the work, expressed in the language it was originally written.

A comment that can disambiguate the work from others with the same name by the same artist(s).

The international Standard Musical Work Code assigned to the work by copyright collecting agencies.

The type of work.


If a discrete work is known by name(s) or in language(s) other than its canonical name, these are specified in the work’s aliases.


A work is associated with artists, recordings and other works through advanced relationships.

Work-to-Artist relationship

A work can be associated with one or more composer, arranger, instrumentator, orchestrator, lyricist, librettist, translator and publisher.

Work-to-Recording relationship

A work can be associated with one or more recordings. This provides the indirect association between a work and its performance and production artists.

Work-to-Work relationships

A work can be associated with one or more other works. There are two types of work-work relationships:

Part-of-work relationship
A work can be expressed as a part of another work.

Derivative work relationship
A work can be expressed as being derived from one or more other works. Examples: instrumental work with lyrics added later, translation of a work into a different language, remix, mashup.


  1. For remixes/mashups, what kind (composition!) ARs would be used to distinguish the derivative work from the original(s)?
  2. Part-of-relationship would ideally have an ordinal number to specify where in a sequence the discrete work would occur within its aggregate. Possible?